It was a day of mixed emotions. On the joyous side, we had an easy, even quick walk from Astorga all the way to Foncebadon 27km away. There were no issues of blisters whatsoever. This evening, I can freely bend all my toes without pain or impediment and my right heel has drained completely.
The walk went so quickly that we had to decide whether to stop for a short breakfast in Santa Catalina. And we made a wonderful new friend in Peggy, who just finished her PhD and is walking the Camino. She knows many of the same pilgrims as I do, helped us take photos with a falconer who was on the trail, snacked with us in Rabanal, and walked with us from outside Ganso up to Foncebadon.
We had a hostal room reserved in case my blisters slowed me down to a crawl on this uphill walk. Now Foncebadon is a village with a population of 14, a true cowboy mountain pueblito that feels rough and tough. Yet Jose checked us in, and we got items from the attached tienda (store) from Miguel, dropped our stuff at the room, and noticed the wedding photos on the hallways... Of Jose and Miguel. Spain has had marriage equality since 2005 and these guys married three years ago, run the one hotel and tienda in town successfully, seem genuinely happy, and totally made me feel like "love wins".
Because of intermittent drizzle, we opted to eat our picnic in their dining room instead of at the cross. But then we proceeded to walk to the enormous Cruz de Ferro (cross of iron).
The road to the cross is on the Camino but we wanted to see it today. We walked the 2km and saw a group of people walking ahead of us by about 1/2 km. Given all the variables that led to when we arrived (departure, foot health, meals, weather, hotel check in, walking with new friends), imagine my shock when, just at the moment we arrive at the foot of the cross, I see Nancy Reynolds from back home at All Saints Pasadena. She and I were on a Transformational Journey to China a couple years ago and I helped answer her questions regarding the Camino. She joined a walking tour that will walk from Sarria to Santiago and we were planning to meet at the 7pm cathedral mass on June 24.
It seems the Holy Spirit wanted us to meet earlier, and to meet at the foot of the cross.
Her tour included a stop at the cross with the short walk from Foncebadon. We were elated, chatted, and said our goodbyes until we meet again in about 10 days.
Stephen and I then were alone at the cross, blustery wind and dark clouds around us. The tradition for many is to carry a stone from where they came and lay it at the foot of the cross. It represents all that weigh us down - our sins, regrets, emotions, baggage - that may seem small but we carry for hundreds and thousands of miles in our backpacks, hurting us in small but pronounced ways. We take that stone and we leave it at the cross, asking Christ to bear our burden for us, releasing ourselves of this weight, and walking lighter in our lives as we journey on.
He climbed up the mound of millions of rocks, bent down, said a prayer, and laid his stone down. I did the same, also laying down a stone that I carried from my parents. Then, we both came up the mound, knelt, and laid some of Tim's ashes at the foot of the cross. Stephen's brother Tim finally succumbed to cancer two weeks before our wedding. I've carried his ashes, laying some in Lourdes a site of healing and now some here, asking that his pains and the pains of all who loved him be released and carried for us.
We sat at the picnic tables for a while and processed. So many emotions today. Elation and reflection. Happiness and trauma. For you see, some of conversations with Peggy had to do with Orlando. We talked about having to talk about gun violence with folks from other countries, and the safety and fear among LGBT people. She wept as she copes with Orlando last night while Stephen and I are still in shock.
So as I've healed on my way to the cross, as we marveled at the beauty of the hills and creation, as we climbed ever higher into the beautiful mountains, as we celebrated with new friends and old, we walked that road to Calvary and found ourselves at a place of pure gravity. A place where our mortality meets the divine in death. Where love seems to have been killed.
And I prayed in the rainy walk back, holding Stephen's hand in mine, knowing that it's on the road to the cross today and every day that we can choose to carry stones and pain and violence and death, or we can act. We can lay down our stones, our pain. Lay them down one by one and build a mound of untold numbers of rocks. Put them there at the foot of the cross.
Brick by brick. Stone by stone.
And know that grace has been offered freely, and heaven is our choice.
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